2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: North Carolina

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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North Carolina Tar Heels (Last Year: 25-11, 12-6 in ACC)

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Joel James (Soph) or Kennedy Meeks (Fr)/Desmond Hubert (Jr)

PF: Brice Johnson (Soph)/Isaiah Hicks (Fr)/Jackson Simmons (Jr)

SF: James McAdoo (Jr)/J.P. Tokoto (So)/P.J. Hairston (Jr)

G: Marcus Paige (Soph)/Leslie McDonald (Sr)

PG: Nate Britt (Fr)

Gone: G/F-Reggie Bullock, G-Dexter Strickland

2013-14 Outlook:
A big question mark entering the season for the North Carolina Tar Heels is the status of top returning scorer, P.J. Hairston and key reserve, Leslie McDonald. UNC is capable of making a run in the growing ACC but needs those two guys on the floor to do so.

Hairston had a few off-the-court run-ins with the law this off-season and has yet to receive the length of his suspension which the NCAA will help decide. McDonald also has eligibility issues of his own that the Heels are trying to figure out meaning the team will be thin on the wing heading into the season.

Hairston was expected to step into the starting line-up after serving as the team’s sixth man last year. He is a dynamic all-around scorer but can really light it up from deep and his physicality allows him to play a few positions including power forward when Roy Williams would choose to use a smaller line-up. McDonald was also a key reserve last season and was expected to start at shooting guard this year.

With those two out, UNC will likely turn to a pair of point guards in their starting backcourt with returning starter Marcus Paige and freshman Nate Britt. Both guys fit the mold of a point guard in Williams’ up-tempo attack in that they thrive in the open floor and getting out in transition. Until the Hairston and McDonald situations figure themselves out, Paige will need to become more of a scorer early in the season.

The lone reserve on the wing is J.P. Tokoto who was a spot player last season in the rotation. He relies on his athleticism, slashing ability, and versatility, being more of a glue guy, defensive player since he is an inconsistent outside shooter.

With a lack of depth in the backcourt, the Tar Heels will move James Michael McAdoo to the small forward position. McAdoo has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that came with him when arrived in Chapel Hill. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the three since he is not much of a threat from the outside. One benefit is that his size and strength should allow him to post up smaller defenders.

The inside play was a struggle last season as the handful of guys on the roster competing for minutes in the middle were unable to stake their claim as “the guy.” Brice Johnson, Joel James, Desmond Hubert, and Jackson Simmons all saw minutes in the frontcourt and the lengthy, athletic Johnson was the most productive of the group (if you can call five points and three rebounds a game, “productive.”) He and physical James are expected to start up-front but a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks will battle for playing time as well.

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be fun to watch as they run, run, and run some more. If the team is truly going to compete with Duke and Syracuse for the ACC title though, Hairston needs to be on the floor and somebody must step up in the frontcourt to help McAdoo.

Player to Watch: James Michael McAdoo, F
The former McDonald’s All-American could have bolted for the NBA Draft the past two summers and been a first-round pick based on raw talent alone, but he wasn’t ready for the next level. McAdoo did average 14.4 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game last year, but had a tendency to try and do too much. The Tar Heels need him to be more reliable this season, especially early in the year with Hairston out and McAdoo expected to see significant minutes at the three.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/17 vs. Belmont
  • 11/23 vs. Richmond (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
  • 11/24 vs. Louisville/Fairfield (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
  • 12/1 at UAB
  • 12/4 at Michigan State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
  • 12/14 vs. Kentucky
  • 12/18 vs. Texas
  • 12/21 vs. Davidson

  • Predicted ACC Finish: 3rd

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